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British Airways reinstates face masks – and won’t say why

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Plot twist. According to reports, British Airways has had a last-minute change of heart and not removed the requirement to wear face masks.

The plan was to remove the requirement to wear masks, except for destinations where it is required by law, from today.

Heathrow Airport and Virgin Atlantic were also removing mask mandates from today.

British Airways backtracks on removal of face masks

It isn’t clear what is happening. Flyertalk posts from crew claim there are ‘compliance issues’ with removing the requirement for masks but the airline is not disclosing what these are.

All references to the removal of masks have disappeared from the BA website. The covid guidance pages still say that a mask is compulsory on all flights:

“Although UK rules are easing, here at British Airways like other airlines and airports, wearing face masks is still our policy. We’ll need you to wear a face mask in the airport and on board unless you are exempt. We have this policy to protect our most vulnerable customers and abide by the laws of countries around the world.

As a guide, a face mask could last up to four hours, so please make sure you bring enough for the duration of your trip. You will be asked to remove your mask for any passport checks, but you’ll be advised when to do so by our colleagues.

When you’re on board, you’re allowed to remove your face mask for a reasonable time to enable you to eat or drink. When you’re not consuming food or drink, your face mask must be placed back on and must cover your nose and mouth at all times.

British Airways reinstating face masks

What is going on?

It’s not clear.

BA is claiming on Twitter that nothing has changed despite what passengers are being told, despite what BA staff are saying in our own comments section below and despite the website changes:

The move to retain face coverings on public transport in Scotland for a further period – these were meant to have been scrapped next week – has obviously caused issues for passengers on flights to Scotland.

It is possible that it is linked to passengers connecting in London. Do passengers flying to some countries have to wear a mask for their entire trip? Perhaps the whole aircraft must be masked if one person is connecting? There are reports of passengers being told that a decision on masks can only be taken after boarding. If this is true, however, why has SAS not been impacted after dropping masks?

Whatever the issue is, it has not impacted Jet2, Tui or Virgin Atlantic which have already removed the requirement to wear face masks.

More if we get it. For now, you better keep that mask to hand, even though you won’t need it at Heathrow or Gatwick in the airport.

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Comments (237)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Bonglim says:

    It’s fairly simple. The reason masks are back is because covid is back, in a big way. Cases are rising hugely, anecdotally I know more people who have covid now than at any time through the pandemic.

    The UK, particularly pressed by the media, has decided everyone who hasn’t been vaccinated doesn’t count and more worryingly everyone with a significant illness/ risk factor is less important, and we should just carry on as normal. It is less fatal than flu you know, ignoring the much higher hospitalisation rates than flu, higher rates of long term illness, higher rates of death from other causes in the 12 months after covid and ignoring that it is still a pretty miserable disease.

    But we as a country have decided to carry on as normal. It is not the same in other countries and our rising rates could lead to a lockdown for international travel imposed by other countries. If USA did it, that would be a disaster for BA. And maybe there has been a tap on the shoulder to say with so many transatlantic BA flights, we would move one step closer to those measures if passengers were encouraged to travel without a mask.
    Virgin with their relatively few flights, probably flew under the radar.

    • TGLoyalty says:

      So much conjecture.

      Worrying about cases is a 2020 centric view. The link between cases and severe illness has been severely broken with vaccines and omicron.

      There are ways for the CEVs to protect themselves like wearing N95 masks replaced at regular intervals ie max 4 hours use and staying in well ventilated outdoor spaces as much as possible. If that isn’t enough then I also don’t understand what they did pre 2020 when any number of common ailments for 99.99% of the population were dangerous to them.

    • Chris says:

      EVERYONE will get Covid at some point. Why can’t people accept that?

      • Novice says:

        I think some can’t accept getting it again. I personally believe I may have been one of first cases in UK back in December 19 because seriously I’ve never been that ill in my life but nobody knew what was wrong with me.

        So, with me it’s a case of I will never know what it was but I sure as hell never want to be ill like that again.

        I didn’t spread it because of my OCD I naturally quarantined when I was ill.

        • Rob says:

          You won’t be ill like that again though, assuming you’ve been jabbed.

          My wife had old fashioned flu this week and it was 5x worse than her (double jabbed) round of Delta covid last year.

    • Ben says:

      And yet all the news from other countries is about relaxing restrictions, not tightening them.

      Almost like focusing solely on cases when the majority are vaccinated and boosted is incredibly naive.

      Update your 2020 talking points

      • David S says:

        Portugal has recently extended its mandatory mask wearing in enclosed spaces. 100% compliance in places like supermarkets with no grumbles

      • Bonglim says:

        your opinions are based solely on regular people. People like me, where catching it is not so bad, having had a load of vaccines.
        And it there is still a link between cases and ‘serious illness’ – as in serious enough to go in to hospital. The breakage can best be described as to deaths and possibly ITU admissions.

        But that change is not based on those who would like to travel as a bucket list journey while they have leukaemia. Or people who have 3 different rheumatoid arthritis drugs or other issues which make them more vulnerable.

        Or indeed people in countries that have not had access to the vaccinations in the same way as the UK. And unsurprisingly, some of those countries have a different view.

        While countries are talking about relaxing restrictions, that is because cases/ hospital admissions had been seen to be falling. China had been miles ahead in relaxing restrictions…. until this week.

        I do agree with the general direction of relaxing restrictions – but the willingness to just ignore those in society who are more vulnerable is lamentable. And for readers in a travel website, to think that every country is the same as the UK is just naive.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          And it there is still a link between cases and ‘serious illness’ – as in serious enough to go in to hospital.

          There increasing isn’t. The majority of hospital cases are co incidental and not their reason for being in hospital. In fact most of those have caught in hospital.

          • Bonglim says:

            your view is well reported by media who have an agenda, but without any clear evidence. It will probably become clearer to everyone towards the end of March, with a booster programme for the most vulnerable in April.

            In my area hospital admissions BECAUSE of respiratory illness in total have increased – at a time of year when we would normally be seeing a decrease – and on the back of a trend that has been decreasing. Given that it is approaching the time when the most at risk patients will expect to have waining of their vaccine (as they were given the booster first in late September/ early October ) it is totally an effect which is totally expected.

  • BTW says:

    I’ve just boarded a BA flight to Dubai from T5 and can confirm that masks are not mandated on board. No one has asked me to wear a mask, or even suggested wearing of a mask. There was an announcement reminding everyone that masks are required at the destination and that’s it. That said, I’d say around 60-70% of the flight are optionally wearing masks.

    • CatchFlightsNotFeelings says:

      Brilliant news the changes are trickling through!

  • YH says:

    I’m in the DXB 106 back to London right now and they just made an announcement saying despite what we may have heard in the news or on social media, masks are still required on this specific route.

  • Simon Hill says:

    I asked whilst in the Concorde room about this and they said masks are only mandatory on US flights

  • FRASER says:

    HELP PLEASE 🙂 Travelling to USA (Boston, then Florida). The covid rules “recommend that travellers take a viral test within 3 to 5 days of arrival in the US”. Does that mean it’s entirely optional? Google doesn’t seem to know…

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